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MAACO Bowl Las Vegas Breakdown: Utah Pass Game vs. Bronco Defense

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Boise State Passing Defense

The Boise State defense showed it was dynamic once again in 2010 proving to be consistent at stopping both the pass and run. The Broncos finished the regular season ranked fourth in the country in total defense (259.25 ypg), thanks in large part to the nation's third ranked pass defense (155.8 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (96.68).

Over the course of 12 games Boise State only allowed its opponents to complete 51.9 percent of their passes and throw for just eight passing touchdowns. Most remarkably, five of the passing touchdowns the Broncos allowed came in their first five games. Boise State also held five opponents on the season without a passing touchdown.

The Broncos stifled opposing offenses by pressuring the quarterback and creating turnovers down field. Boise State held eight of 12 opponents to less than 200 passing yards thanks to a defense that led the nation in sacks per game (3.75). The Broncos held four of those eight opponents to less than 100 yards passing.

The Boise State defensive line wreaked havoc on opposing offensive fronts all season long, behind dominant play from a trio of all-conference players. Defensive ends Shea McClellin and Ryan Winterswyk were voted first team All-Western Athletic Conference for their game changing play on the outside. McClellin (6-3, 254), a junior from Caldwell, Idaho (Marsing HS), led Boise State with 8.5 sacks while also recording 26 tackles. Winterswyk (6-4, 288), a senior from La Habra, Calif. (La Habra HS), finished the regular season with 42 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Joining McClellin and Winterswyk as an All-WAC selection was defensive tackle Billy Winn, who was voted second team all conference. Winn (6-4, 288), a junior from Las Vegas, Nev. (Las Vegas HS), earned his all conference selection after recording 27 tackles and 4.0 sacks on the year.

Boise State's stout defensive line proved to be a nice compliment to a solid secondary that boasts several big play-makers. The Broncos recorded 14 interceptions as a group in 2010 with 10 different players getting in on the action. Boise State scored three touchdowns off interceptions, as Aaron Tevis, Derrell Acrey and McClellin all returned picks for a score.

Senior defensive back Brandyn Thompson led the way for Boise State with three interceptions. Thompson (5-10, 177), an Elk Grove, Calif. (Franklin HS) native, finished the regular season with a team high 10 passes defended to go along with 30 tackles.

Utah Passing Game

The Utah offense enters the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas leaning on a luxury that most programs in the country couldn't; starting backup quarterback that has loads of experience. After losing sophomore starter Jordan Wynn to injury the Utes were forced to insert backup Terrance Cain into the lineup to face Boise State. Fortunately for Utah, Cain is 9-1 as a starter over the past two seasons with a career QB rating of 145.56.

Cain will take the reins of an offense that finished the regular season ranked No. 29 in team pass efficiency (145.20) and No. 37 in passing offense (248.00 ypg). The Utes completed 63.6 percent of their passes on the season with 24 touchdown throws and 12 interceptions.

Cain (5-11, 194), a senior from Houston, Texas (Blinn College), is 2-0 this season as a starter having filled in for Wynn against UNLV and New Mexico. Cain completed 13 of 20 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns against UNLV. He followed that up with an impressive 20 of 23 performance for 248 passing yards and three touchdowns against New Mexico. His numbers against the Lobos tallied a 220.57 passer rating.

As a junior Cain started eight games, seven of which he led Utah to wins. For his career Cain has completed 188 of 287 passes for 2,234 yards, 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Cain will look to rebound from a less than stellar outing in Utah's 17-16 win over BYU in the regular season finale however, where is completed just two passes in seven attempts with a pair of interceptions in the third quarter.

The Utes have enjoyed depth at wide receiver this season with eight different players catching 10 or more passes this fall. Jereme Brooks (5-7, 170), a senior from League City, Texas (Clear Creek HS), leads the team in receptions with 50 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns. He is followed by DeVonte Christopher, who leads Utah in receiving yards (660) and receiving touchdowns (six). Christopher (6-1, 200), a sophomore from Las Vegas, Nev. (Canyon Springs HS), caught 39 passes on the season.

As with their running game, the Utes have relied on a stout offensive line to lead the passing attack. Utah finished the regular season ranked fifth nationally in sacks allowed per game (.67) thanks to an o-line that boasts three all-conference performers. Guard Caleb Schlauderaff and center Zane Taylor were picked first team All-MWC, while tackle Tony Bergstrom was named second team All-MWC.

Schlauderaff (6-4, 302), a senior from Shelton, Wash. (Shelton HS), was also selected to several All-America teams following the regular season. He was named Walter Camp second team All-American, SI.com second team All-American and Associated Press third team All-American.